By: Chris Annunziata – Host Metal Teddy Bear Experience
Leading progressive metallers, Periphery, decided to bring back their Sonic Unrest Tour for a second time. Fortunately for New Jersey, they stopped at Starland Ballroom with bands of differentiating styles: The Contortionist, Norma Jean, Infinity Shred and Inventure (who only opened for this show). Everyone at the show had a great time and, despite the fact that it was April Fools’ Day, nothing went wrong. Opening the show was Inventure, a band from Brick, New Jersey. They put on quite a show. I can definitely see these guys becoming more than an opening act in due time. The band was very energetic, especially the vocalist, Stephen Nowak. He definitely has the traits of great frontman. Overall, the band was very good but, through no fault of their own, the mix could have been better.
Next, Infinity Shred took the stage and surprised, not only me, but the people around me as well. If you look them up on Facebook, their description follows, “Space, Forever, Synthesizers”, which sums them up perfectly. Silhouettes of the band glowed as they played in the shadows with some nice neon lights. Their music seemed like a constant evolving loop with an atmospheric uprising, which to me, is a great correlation to their name. Throughout the whole set, all I kept thinking about was the similarities between their music and the Stranger Things intro music.
After the calming set from Infinity Shred, the almighty Norma Jean came out and really turned it up a notch. They stormed the stage with “I. The Planet” off of their latest release, Polar Similar and continued to destroy. The Georgia natives relentlessly dished out songs, never giving the pit a reason to subside. They were definitely the most energetic band of the night and really sounded tight. Other than Periphery, Norma Jean probably had the best mix of the night. The bassist, John Finnegan, was the most entertaining to watch. The way he rocked out and headbanged while simultaneously jumping to the beat of the song was outstanding. After Norma Jean released Polar Similar, they had been a band I was longing to see. I definitely recommend making the time to see them the next time they come around.
For this tour, The Contortionist were co-headliners. Therefore, they got a longer set than the previous bands. The progressive sextet brought the energy down from where Norma Jean had left it, but they still captivated the audience. Vocalist, Michael Lessard’s performance was very interesting to watch. He would often follow the beat or certain notes of a song with minor jerks and twitches. It was oddly satisfying to watch because he didn’t follow every beat or note, it was seemingly selective but still very arbitrary. Overall, The Contortionist delivered what their fans expected from them and put on a great show.
Finally, the pioneers of the djent movement took the stage. Periphery opened up with, “A Black Minute”, and then moved on to “Stranger Things”, which were two songs I was happy to hear. They played a lot of songs off of their latest effort, Periphery III: Select Difficulty and not much off of their early albums. It was sad to not hear songs like, “Icarus Lives”, “Alpha” or “Ragnarok”, which I thought would be stapled onto their set. Typically the last song of the night is either a heavier track or one of the band’s most popular songs. Instead, Periphery decided to change it up and go out singing a love tune with “Lune”. Either way, Periphery definitely put on a strong performance and continued to demonstrate why they are one of the most successful progressive metal bands in their scene.
Overall this show was fantastic and I’m very glad I was able to go. This tour had some of my favorite bands and, additionally, it was at one of my favorite venues. Due to the number of songs played off Norma Jean and Periphery’s latest albums, I recommend listening to them before attending. If you love progressive, experimental and heavy metal, you must take the time to catch this tour when it comes around.